What is a potty baby?
Known as “elimination communication", in essence it is about respectfully
communicating with your baby about their elimination from an early age. This
involves keeping them as clean and dry as possible, therefore keeping their
awareness of their own body strong, and as a result most babies complete
toilet learning before their second birthday
How does it work?
You can start at birth (or ideally within the
first five months) by watching for your babies patterns or cues or timing
about when he/she pees or poo's.
Well, I admit I haven't tried it but after reading the
following article, I wish I'd heard about it earlier!
Personal experience - My Potty Baby
by Liz Neill
My baby pees in the potty and has done since she was just a few
days old. She is 10 months old now and pottying is just a part of our day as
are meals, breastfeeding, bathtime, sleep and play.
I heard about
“elimination communication’, or ‘infant potty learning’ when I was pregnant
with Elliot – my fourth child, and to be perfectly honest I thought the
person telling me about it was a bit off the wall. But, I watched them, I
read one of the books available, I learned and I decided to give it a go.
When Elliot was first born I just watched her for patterns
or cues or timing about when she peed and poohed – I was
amazed, this tiny new baby really did know when she needed
to go, the patterns were discernable and she was trying to
tell me. When she was 17 days old I held her over the potty
for the first time, cued her – and she peed. It happened
again, and again – I was hooked!
I started at birth, but many families find out about this
when their baby is already here, and that is fine too. The
‘easiest’ time to begin is within the first 5 months but
many babies have success starting later than this, right
through to toddlers almost ready for conventional toilet
learning – The first thing I did was get my then 26 month
old out of nappies over Labour w/e 2002, using these
Sure there are crazy times when we miss some, and early on
I wondered how on earth I would ever do a supermarket trip
with a baby who needed to pee every 20 minutes, because I
couldn’t imagine whipping out the potty in the fruit and
vege section, but we worked through that issue and others.
(My partner and my three year old still go and get the
groceries at 7am on Saturday!)
I have two potties, one for at home and one in the car for
when we are out. Sometimes I take it with me in to places,
other times I potty her in the car and then go into a shop
or wherever and offer again when we get back to the car.
But – the best parts for me are, that I almost never have
pooey diapers – maybe one or two a month. From a birthing
perspective, I love that my daughter has learnt to ‘release’
rather than ‘hold’ in her pelvic area – that’s got to help
with her births later on!
I love the fact that Elliot never has wet pants on for more than a few
seconds, that she is comfortable, dry and clean always. Even if all this did
was show me how often babies pee so I could change her that often it would
be worth it. It’s not every 20 minutes any more, at 10 months Elliot
regularly goes an hour or even a couple of hours between pees. It’s no
harder than diaper changes now – in fact much easier as I remember how fast
my other children would roll over or run away at this age.
And she loves sitting on her potty as the photos clearly show!
The most frequent question I am asked when people see Elliot on
the potty is ‘what is the theory behind using the potty at this
age?’ My understanding is that babies know when they need to
eliminate, just as they know when they need to feed or sleep or burp
– it is an issue of communication, of us as parents being able to
discern what she needs. By positively reinforcing that communication
they keep the awareness and refine it – when it is not reinforced
they lose the awareness until a more conscious time around 2 years,
unless they are gently brought back to it. Elimination Communication
is a gentle loving way of being with our babies, there is no place
for coercion, punishment etc within this relationship.
There are times that are more likely to work – babies don’t pee
in a deep sleep so nap wake up times and first thing in the morning
are good times for ‘catches’. Some babies are predictable around
feeding times as well, and some are quite regular with poo times. I
found I relied on timing mostly for several months but lately I have
introduced a hand sign when I offer the potty and Elliot is
beginning to use it back to me and signal herself when she needs to
There is a growing resurgence in the Western world of what
peoples in other cultures have always done with their babies. It is
totally possible to do this in our culture, my baby wears training
pants at home mostly and an all-in-one diaper or specially made
OneWetPants when we are out. There are people who do this full time
with their baby, those that do it part time, some with twins or a
baby with special needs, some days only, some at home only, some
offer the potty at each diaper change and when baby wakes from
sleep. The concepts can be worked into any family situation, and
there is plenty of support available.
Update – 7 months later – October 2004
Elliot is now 17 months old, and things have changed quite a bit
in potty land. She wears underwear fulltime now, tells me when she
needs to pee more and more reliably, will ‘go’ if we try before
going out or before meals or bed, uses her hand sign, waits a little
bit to get to the toilet or car potty, and is quite happy using the
big toilet with the insert seat. She loves to empty her potty into
the toilet, in fact I’m not allowed to redress her before she has
carried the potty through to the bathroom.
She is also very funny around her potty – she will scoot round
our wooden floors on her potty, or stand up and run away holding the
potty to her bum with both hands – usually while empty thank
goodness, or put the potty on the rocking chair for movement whilst
peeing ……And I’m back doing the grocery shopping with a toddler and
my 4 year old as Elliot now often goes 1 ½ - 3 hours between potty
Also, in the bigger world of potty land there have been some
changes too. The online support group mentioned below now has over
900 members, but most importantly for us, we now have a local
support group in Wellington, and have monthly Potty Parties. We have
5 regular families, 4 with potty babies and toddlers, and one due
with their baby any day soon, as well as a couple of other
interested families wanting to find out more. Its very reassuring
being with other people making similar choices with their children,
and being able to talk through the issues as they arise. I also like
that the kids get to see the normality of babies using the potty,
and new parents can see different positions for holding a baby on or
over the potty.
There are websites devoted to this, books available and an online
support group with over 700 members of families with potty babies
See the orange "further reading" box at the top of this page.